Rocky Anderson left office as mayor of Salt Lake City as his second term ended at the end of 2008.
Now, nearly 15 years later, he wants another crack at the helm of Utah's capital city, saying he's fed up with how the city is run today.
Anderson told a small group of supporters during an event Wednesday night that he will seek a third term after coming to the decision over the past weekend. He's not sure yet when he will make a public announcement and file the paperwork to make it official.
"It's been building up for a long time," he told KSL NewsRadio on Thursday. "Initially, I was absolutely opposed to doing it. It's not what I had in mind for myself, but I decided that this city is at its absolute worst. It's unsafe, it's filthy (and) we're not dealing with the homeless in a humane way. ... All we do is move one encampment from one place to another to another and to another."
The former mayor, who turns 71 next month, said he's found that he still has the energy and passion to oversee the city. He added that he doesn't believe the homeless resource centers have helped with neighborhoods, pointing to issues in the city's Ballpark neighborhood. The neighborhood, which just received a new police substation Thursday, is by one of the new city's homeless resource centers that opened after the closure of the downtown Road Home in 2019.
Public police data shows that violent crime is up 11% from last year and over 38% from the five-year average in the council district that includes the neighborhood, though total crime is down about 7% from last year and nearly 1% from the five-year average, through the end of July. Anderson said the neighborhood "smells like a human sewer," too, as a result of human excrements left on the street.
The same report also lists citywide violent crime as up 9.6% from the same five-year average, but down about 3% below the same point last year. Total crime is also listed down 9% citywide from last year and nearly 2% from the five-year average.
Anderson added that he's brought his frustrations up with the office of current Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall and doesn't believe they have handled the issues appropriately, which he says has allowed some of the problems to fester.
"They don't care about the dignity issues. They don't care about the hygiene. They don't care about the people who live in or visit our city, where we have these problems," Anderson said. "It's been going on now for years and we've seen zero progress. ... When we all come together, this can be solved. But the mayor ought to be leading the charge and this mayor and staff are holding photo op press conferences."
Mendenhall took office in 2020 after defeating Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, in the 2019 mayoral election. Ian Koski, her political adviser, pushed back against Anderson's claims in a statement to KSL.com.
"It's easy to snipe and second-guess on Twitter, but Mayor Mendenhall is doing the hard work of governing every day in service to the people of Salt Lake City. That's where her focus is," his statement reads. "She has delivered real results for the city through unprecedented crises and challenges."
Anderson is perhaps best known for serving as the mayor when Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. But he was also known for being outspoken on a variety of issues ranging from the environment to his disapproval of then-President George W. Bush.
While controversial at times, a KSL/Deseret News poll of 413 Salt Lake City residents published in April 2007 found that he had a 59% approval rating in the final year of his second term. The poll was conducted after he had announced that year that he would not seek a third term.
He's remained an outspoken figure since then as a human rights activist. He also publicly left the Democratic Party to form the Justice Party in 2011, blasting President Barack Obama, as well as Democrats and Republicans in Congress, along the way. Anderson said Thursday that he still affiliates with his third party a decade later.
There are currently three people who have committees for mayoral campaigns set up with Salt Lake City listed as open by the city. Those are Mendenhall, former Downtown Community Council Chairman Christian Harrison, and community activist Michael Valentine.
City council districts two, four and six are also up for election next year.
Contributing: Adam Small